To Ethan Garrett, a presidential candidate’s integrity and personal values matter. As Garrett sees it, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump lacks those qualities.
“I’m not a big fan,” said Garrett, a member of the Wilshire Church of Christ in Oklahoma City.
“I just think Trump lacks basic decency and manners,” added the 25-year-old energy company accountant. “And that’s not something I want to have the kids of this nation … looking at as a role model.”
Garrett’s wife, Danielle, and sister, Tori, joined him at an Oklahoma campaign rally for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, one of Trump’s main challengers.
In the days leading up to crucial Super Tuesday voting on March 1, Trump, Rubio and the other leading GOP contender — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz — all swooped into the Sooner State to energize supporters.
Tori Garrett, 19, is preparing to vote in her first presidential election. She said she didn’t know much about Rubio but wanted to find out more.
“It’s kind of slim pickings with all the candidates,” Tori Garrett said. “There’s no one ideal candidate.”
Asked what appeals to her about Rubio, she replied, “He’s not Trump.”
Not so fast, responds Don Middleton, minister for the Cross Timbers Church of Christ in Stephenville, Texas.
“I really have not had a significant issue with making a case for Trump, even though I know many would disagree,” said Middleton, who also has considered Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. “Jimmy Carter was a fine Christian man but one of our worst presidents, in my opinion. JFK was no poster child for Christianity (or) morality but has long been considered a strong president by many.
“Trump certainly has many personality flaws, but he does make many good points — most of which relate to how he would handle business, foreign and other policies,” the Texas minister added. “Some say he may be crazy, but I say ‘crazy like a fox.’”
Among the Bible Belt states holding primaries or caucuses: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.
“Members of the Churches of Christ are all over the map in this election,” said Neal Coates, a political scientist at Abilene Christian University in Texas. “There is no one favorite candidate. In fact, this seems to be an election in which the least favorite option is eliminated in the process of choosing the eventual nominee for the Republicans.”
What to make of Trump?
“Members of Churches of Christ, it seems to me, are not supportive of Trump’s personal life and tactics that have led to much of his wealth,” Coates said. “But he represents some sort of strength and commitment and business success. … There is also the feeling that someone, anyone, needs to replace the current president and that the Republican elite and their preferred candidates — now Rubio — have not taken enough steps to prevent Obamacare and to speak out against the Supreme Court decision on homosexual marriage or to oppose unlimited immigration.”